On the Passion of Christ as the Cause of Our Joy.
PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.
My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.
On the Passion of Christ as the Cause of Our Joy.
The return of Friday recalls to our mind the admonition of the seraphic Father, St. Francis: “I pray you, Brethren, keep the Passion of Jesus Christ ever before your sight.” In loyal obedience to this precept fix your eyes to-day upon the cross. Imagine yourself to be standing with John beneath that cross, kneeling with Magdalen at the foot of that cross, whereon the Saviour of mankind is shedding His blood and suffering intense agony. Meanwhile consider the following truths:
1st. Our Lord hangs upon the cross naked, covered with blood and consumed by intolerable thirst. Alas! He who clothes the lilies of the field, who adorns them with a beauty surpassing that of Solomon in all his regal magnificence and glory; He who decks the earth with a verdant vesture and gives warm covering to the beasts; He who counts it as done to Himself if one clothes the naked, He hangs upon the cross with no other garment to protect His quivering limbs and conceal them from the rude gaze of the soldiers than blood and wounds. Nor is this all. He who moistens and refreshes the face of the earth with the dews of heaven and vivifying rain; He who created countless springs and streams at which the creatures He made can quench their thirst; He who promises the bliss of Heaven as the reward of a cup of cold water given to the thirsty, He, hanging on the cross, utters that piteous cry: “I thirst.” Yet not a drop of water is given Him to still His distressing thirst. Weep, my soul, weep over the pain your God endures, yet weep tears of gratitude, for behold, His sufferings are the cause of your joy. If our Lord did not hang stripped and naked upon the cross, you could not enter into the kingdom of Heaven clad in the wedding garment; did He not suffer this thirst upon Calvary, it would be one day your fate to cry with the unhappy Dives: “Father Abraham, have mercy on me and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water to cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame.” (St. Luke xvi. 24.)
2d. Consider your Lord, as in utter weariness and exhaustion He hangs upon the cross. Alas! He who spoke those loving words: “Come to Me, all you that labor and are burdened and I will refresh you” (St. Matt. xi. 28), He who when returning home with His disciples at the close of a long day spent in preaching the Gospel, was wont of His kindness to retire to a solitary place where they could rest; He who made the tranquil night and caused the sun to withdraw its light in order that men and beasts might enjoy undisturbed repose and recruit their forces in sleep; He is driven and goaded up to Golgotha, like a harried victim of the chase. Words fail to describe His prostration after all He had gone through the bloody sweat upon the Mount of Olives, the cruel scourging, the fatigue of being dragged from one tribunal to another, of traversing the hard and toilsome way of the cross on which He fell to the ground so many times. And when you now see Him who according to the assertion of the prophet “giveth strength to the weary and increaseth force and might to them that are not” (Is. xl. 29), if you see Him who upholds the heavens and the earth, hanging in weariness and exhaustion on the cross, weep, my soul, over your Lord in His deadly languor, but weep tears of gratitude. For His weakness is your strength; His weariness and fatigue will purchase for you celestial refreshment and eternal repose, the rest which the Saviour has promised to us all; and you will owe it to Him alone if the appalling words of the Apocalypse are not fulfilled in your case: “Neither have they rest day nor night.” (Ap. xiv. 11.)
3d. Consider your Lord, as in fearful sadness and distress He hangs upon the cross. Alas! He who created the light, in whose clear radiance all creatures, angels and men rejoice, hangs on the cross on Golgotha shrouded in weird and gloomy darkness; He of whom Isaias said: “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord and my soul shall be joyful in my God” (Ixi. 10), He who formerly reigned in Heaven in bliss unspeakable, now hangs upon the cross in anguish and desolation so terrible that He no longer exclaims as upon Mount Olivet: “My soul is sorrowful even unto death,” but a yet more heartrending cry of grief escapes His pallid lips and resounds amid the dismal darkness: “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Weep, my soul, weep over the anguish of your Saviour, but weep tears of gratitude, for it is to His sadness and sorrow that you will owe it if the eternal felicity of Heaven is your portion; you must ascribe it solely to His dereliction and distress if you are not compelled one day, in eternal banishment from the presence of God, to utter the grievous plaint: “Into how much tribulation am I come, and into what floods of sorrow, wherein I now am.” (I. Mach. vi. 11.) Thus it is that Christ’s bitter Passion is the cause of your joy, or at least it can be and ought to be so; for mark this well if in spite of all He did and suffered for you you are among the lost, the remembrance of what might have been your salvation will greatly aggravate the torments of hell.
PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.
My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.
– Meditations on the Life, Teaching, and Passion of Jesus Christ
(Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur: New York, December 31, 1900)
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